Since readership markedly declines on the weekend I decided to post this today.
Tomorrow is the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby. More importantly, the race marks the 50th anniversary (!) of the beginning of Secretariat’s Triple Crown run. The photo below might literally be my favorite that does not include my wonderful wife.
I apologize for the glare. This is the famous photograph taken near the finish of the 1973 Belmont Stakes showing jockey Ron Turcotte looking over his left shoulder and the other four horses in the race FAR behind Secretariat. Yes, tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby and not the Belmont.
This Sports Illustrated piece by Pat Forde is titled, “Fifty Years Later, Secretariat’s Triple Crown Run Still Seems Unbeatable.” Here is Neil Leifer’s photo that I believe will appear (or has appeared) on the most recent edition of the magazine:
Much of Forde’s piece is about the fact that while performance in human athletic events has improved over time, that is not the same in thoroughbred racing. Fifty years later, Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest time IN ALL THREE TRIPLE CROWN RACES! Veteran racing journalist Dick Jerardi said, “One horse holding all three records is insane. That can’t happen, but it did. In those five weeks, he ran faster than any horse ever has.”
Secretariat ran the first sub-2 minute Kentucky Derby in history. Only one other horse in the 50 years since has done the same. More incredible is that he ran each quarter-mile faster than the one before. In other words, his fastest quarter-mile was the last one. Again from Dick Jerardi, “That does not happen—ever. All horses are decelerating at the end of a 1 1/4-mile race. He was accelerating.”
In the Belmont Stakes, no other horse has come within two seconds of Secretariat’s time. In horse racing, records are almost always broken by fractions of a second. I think that unless Belmont Park installs a fast synthetic track, Secretariat’s record might stand as long as the race is held. I have written before about the horse’s insane Beyer Number for that race. The Beyer Number was invented by Andrew Beyer, a now-famous racing journalist. A Beyer of 90 is very good, a 100 is excellent. Secretariat’s number for the 1973 Belmont was 139, easily the highest Beyer has ever calculated.
While I don’t follow thoroughbred racing anywhere near as closely as I used to (once, I was even part-owner of a thoroughbred), I will watch the three Triple Crown races, starting with the Kentucky Derby tomorrow. I always hope for a Triple Crown winner because I think that generates interest in the sport.
If you’re watching I hope you enjoy the race.
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9 thoughts on “The One And Only”
Secretariat won the Belmont going away, increasing the distance between himself and the other horses with each stride. He won by 31 lengths. IMHO, the greatest race horse ever. My wife has completed her annual tradition and made her selections and each family member has an assigned horse. Mine is Two Phil’s.
Many thanks, Philip. I hope all of you enjoy the race and the day.
To add to the mystique of Secretariat is the fact that two thirteen year olds followed his rise to fame IN REAL TIME. I remember shouting at the top of my lungs watching the Belmont. While I still watch horse races and have even attended ones in Hong Kong, none stick more than that Belmont.
Thanks for sharing. I have to admit that I cry every time I see Secretariat’s win in the Belmont. The shot that always gets me is the camera panning back to capture the entire field of horses and the fans.
I have some friends over in the bluegrass region of Kentucky, where a lot of the breeders are, who go to the Derby every year. In their area the Derby is pretty much the “must do” event of the year. They have invited me to join them several times, but I’m just not that big of a fan so it would be a wasted event for me.
Now if I knew someone who could fire up a time machine and take me to the Indy 500 circa 1965-1975…I’m yer huckleberry.
Thanks, DDM. DSFDF
DDM, when you find the time machine, make sure it is a two-seater, and I’m your co-pilot.
As long as you could stand some side trips to some drag races of the same era; Super Stock. A/FX and gassers, oh my. 🙂
DDM, drag races, oh my of course! We just need to make sure to include some rails especially The Surfers, Skinner, Jobe and Sorokin.